Three crew members of an oil tanker that caught fire and sank off Nigeria last week were found alive and seven others remain unaccounted for, the company that owns the ship said.
An unexplained explosion set off a fire on Wednesday on the Trinity Spirit, the first crude-producing FPSO vessel off Nigeria’s southern delta coast – which was contained the next day. .
FPSOs are floating units that ensure the production and storage of oil or gas extracted by the platform at sea.
There were ten crew members on board at the time of the incident.
“Three crew members were found alive,” said Ikemefuna Okafor, the ship’s owner, general manager of exploration and production company Shebah (Sepcol).
Mr Okafor added that “a body was found near the boat” but could not say whether it was the crew member because “his identity has not been established”.
“Our joint efforts (…) aim to determine the location, safety and security of the seven crew members still missing, to clean up and limit environmental damage, and to determine the cause of the explosion”.
According to Sepcol, the Trinity Spirit has a daily processing capacity of 22,000 barrels and a storage capacity of 2 million barrels.
The number of barrels stored on board at the time of the explosion is still unknown, but the incident has raised fears of a major oil spill.
However, Idris Musa, director of Nigeria’s Oil Spill Detection and Response Agency (Nosdra), told AFP on Sunday that “there has been no oil spill so far. Only a small amount of oil”.
Oil spills are common in Nigeria, but they usually affect the Niger River and its tributaries, and rarely the marine space.
The Niger Delta ecosystem has been ravaged by decades of oil extraction. Oil companies are often singled out for their role in ecological disasters, as are criminal groups that pierce pipelines to plunder crude oil.